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Breddan Airfield

RAAF Landing Ground and 13th Aircraft Repair Depot

  • Airfield
  • North-West

Gregory Developmental Road, Breddan 4820

Breddan airfield, located about 13km north of Charters Towers on the Gregory Developmental Road, was constructed during April 1942. Initially occupied by two squadrons of the US 38th Bombardment Group, the airfield later became a major RAAF aircraft repair and salvage depot. The bitumen east-west Runway 60 degrees extends east of the Gregory Developmental Road, while the unfinished north-south Runway 20 degrees remains evident, running parallel to the road. Taxiways extend north and west from Runway 60 to workshop sites, marked by concrete slabs, of the Airframe Repair Section (ARS), located west of the Gregory Developmental Road near the west end of Runway 60; the General Engineering Section (GES), located between Runway 60 and Runway 20; and the Engine Repair Section (ERS), located north of the GES. Two other ERS workshop floor surfaces are located west of the Gregory Developmental Road. The duty pilot's tower footings are located near the junction of the two runways. About 500m north of Runway 60 towards its eastern end is a reinforced concrete building (10.9m by 8m). The Torpedo Maintenance Unit (TMU) stores southwest of the east end of Runway 60 include ten reinforced concrete igloos. The site of No.1 Camp extends north from the east end of Runway 60, and includes remnants of an open air picture theatre. Number 2 camp was south of the west end of Runway 60, while a WAAAF camp was south of the centre of Runway 60. Camp 3 (or the TMU camp) was southeast of the east end of Runway 60, towards the TMU storage igloos, and contains a small concrete generator igloo.The site of the Motor Transport Section is located south of Runway 60, at the entrance to the airfield. A concrete power house (16.2m by 6m) and hospital foundations are located east of the Motor Transport Section.

History

As early as July 1941 the Royal Australian Air Force had ordered a survey of the Charters Towers district to identify sites for airfields. An initial survey was undertaken during September resulting in the identification of suitable airfield sites at Corinda (Charters Towers), Sandy Creek (Breddan) and several locations near Sellheim.

The RAAF ordered commencement of preliminary work on an aerodrome at Charters Towers during January 1942. The work was completed during March in readiness for the arrival of the United States Army Air Force 3rd Bombardment Group (Light). A need for dispersal strips for Charters Towers led to the use of the Breddan airfield site north of the town, and a second dispersal strip was planned at Southern Cross, a gold mining area to the west of the town.

Under MRC supervision clearing and construction of an airfield at Breddan, on the northern inland road connecting Charters Towers with the Atherton Tableland, began on 10 April 1942. Completion of a gravel east-west runway was the priority, with clearing of a second north-south runway to follow.

On 26 May, after discussions with the RAAF North Eastern Area Command, the USAAF decided that a heavy bombardment role proposed for Charters Towers airfield would be transferred to Breddan, with torpedo workshops established between Charters Towers and Breddan.

By June 1942 a major construction program had commenced at Breddan with the erection of approximately 40 buildings. The buildings included an Aircraft Repair Section workshop, a Motor Transport Workshop near the southern entrance and camp facilities (No.1 Camp). The Allied Works Council (AWC) was responsible for contracting the building program. By late July Breddan was occupied by the RAAF No.12 Repair and Salvage Unit (RSU) and ground crew of the USAAF 38th Bombardment Group (Medium).

On 22 August 1942 the 71st and 405th squadrons of the US 38 BG(M) arrived at Breddan. The main east-west Runway 60 was bitumen sealed by 22 August when most of the B-25 bombers arrived. The north-south second runway, running parallel with a straight section of the northern inland road, was not completed. It later served as an aircraft taxiway for the northern repair and maintenance workshops.

By early October 1942 the 71st and 405th squadrons of the US 38 BG(M) had been posted to Townsville and Breddan was chosen for development as a major aircraft repair and salvage depot under RAAF control.

RAAF No.1 Torpedo Maintenance Unit (TMU) was established at Breddan on 18 November 1942 and an order was placed with the AWC for construction of facilities for the unit including reinforced concrete igloo shelters for the storage of torpedos and torpedo war heads. Ten reinforced concrete storage buildings for No.1 TMU were completed by June 1943 when provision was made for their camouflage. These buildings still survive: seven are torpedo maintenance stores (16m by 6.8m), spaced apart over about a kilometre forming a rough oval. These are designed with two entrances at one end and a semi-circular formwork concrete roof reaching about 4 metres in height. Three torpedo warhead stores are spaced apart in gullies east of the maintenance igloos. The warhead stores (7m by 6.5m) are designed with a single entrance at the centre of the buildings with a reinforced concrete portico above.

No.10 RSU also moved to Breddan in November 1942, and the arrival of an advance party of No.13 Aircraft Repair Depot (ARD) in early 1943 marked the beginning of a significant building program. On 20 January 1943 the AWC was asked to proceed with construction of 11 buildings as part of the Breddan ARD Scheme. Buildings ordered comprised: salvage hangar, propeller testing building, armament hut, electroplating shop, battery hut, motor transport store and office, and four headquarters buildings. The workshops included a number of prefabricated steel frame Bellman hangars.

AWC minutes for 18 February 1943 include an approval to proceed with the fabrication of four 'American Type Hangars' 95 by 45 feet (28.9 by 13.7 metres) galvanised iron covered steel workshop buildings which had been reconstructed in Melbourne. Throughout this period units of No.12 RSU continued operating from Breddan.

During 1943 the AWC were asked to organise an intensive program of building construction at Breddan. The following works were ordered during the first half of the year: a hospital sick bay near the No.2 Camp, with a treatment room and medical officer's hut; a barracks store and officers' mess for No.1 TMU; motor transport engine repair and body chassis workshops; aircraft dismantling hangars; gun firing platform and test butts.

Work on No.1 Camp to hold 350 personnel was completed during May by which period work was also nearing completion on No.2 Camp to hold 400 men. The building construction work was undertaken by Civil Construction Corps labour. During June orders were lodged by the Department of Air for construction of a post office, canteen, ethylene glycol reclamation hut, Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) camp, dental clinic, squadron air depot, cool room and duty pilot's tower. Orders were also placed for the sealing of taxiways.

Workshops and barracks were sufficiently established by August 1943 to allow the main contingent of No.13 ARD to make the move from Tocumwal (NSW) to Breddan. In December 1943 No.12 RSU departed from Breddan for Kiriwina in New Guinea.

At its largest in late 1943 a total of 1200 personnel were accommodated on the base. No.6 Central Recovery Depot (CRD), RAAF, was established at Breddan in June 1944. The RAAF continued to operate from Breddan after World War II and the last unit, No.13 ARD, departed in November 1947. The base was closed by 1948.
Units based at Breddan Aerodrome
38th Bombardment Group (Headquarters) (7 August-30 September 1942)
71st Bombardment Squadron, B-25 Mitchell - between (12 August-1 October 1942)
405th Bombardment Squadron, B-25 Mitchell - between 7 August-30 September 1942)
No. 1 Torpedo Maintenance Unit RAAF
No. 6 Central Receiving Depot RAAF
No. 10 Repair and Salvage Unit RAAF
No. 12 Repair and Salvage Unit RAAF
No. 13 Aircraft Repair Depot RAAF

Source/comments

Breddan WWII Aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Salvage Depot, Queensland Heritage Register 602745.
Marks, RR. 1994. Queensland Airfields WW2—50 Years On, R and J marks, Brisbane.
National Archives of Australia, 371. RAAF Unit History sheets (including No 10 RSU Charters Towers and New Guinea 1942–1945)
National Archives of Australia, L&S806. 13 Repair Depot site plan 1943
National Archives of Australia AT45/46/32, Breddan RAAF landing ground sheet 1, 1945; and NAA AT45/46/33, Breddan RAAF landing ground sheet 2. 1945
Australian War Memorial Photographic Collection.

Last updated
30 June 2014